Smoking ban to be stricter
Some business owners say the new law will reduce their customer base
Local bars, restaurants and cafes will have to adjust to a new law that bans smoking at those establishments beginning Nov. 16.
The Hawaii Smoke-Free Law covers all restaurants and bars, including outdoor patios and lanais, along with public places, enclosed and partially enclosed.
As Hawaii readies itself to become the 14th state in the nation with a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance, the new law drew both praise and ire from the Aloha state's bar and restaurant owners.
Some said it was a step in the right direction, while others complained it would reduce the number of customers.
Under the law, smoking is prohibited:
» In enclosed or partially enclosed workplaces.
» Within 20 feet of doorways, windows and ventilation intakes.
» All enclosed public places.
» The entirety of restaurant and bars, including outdoor patios and lanais.
» More information available at hawaiismokefree.com
TO LEARN MORE
Tobacco-Free Oahu is holding briefings on how businesses can transition to smoke-free workplaces on the following days:
» Kapolei State Building, Room 333, 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
» Castle Wellness & Lifestyle Medicine Center, 642 Ulukahiki St., Suite 105, 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
» Hawaii State Capitol, Room 16, 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Businesses, property owners and managers are required to have a no-smoking sign on their premises, according to Julian Lipsher, tobacco control coordinator for the state's Health Department.
"The best possible customer service philosophy is to train your staff as to what the law says," Lipsher said.
Business that fail to comply with the law may be fined up to $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and up to $500 for each additional violation.
Individual violators of the smoking law may be fined up to $50 plus court costs.
The Health Department, as well as police, can enforce the new law. However, final approval of the Health Department's draft of administrative rules is still pending.
Under individual county laws, according to Deborah Zysman, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, restaurants have been smoke-free for as long as the last five years.
"The new law sets a minimum level of protection for employees all across the state," Zysman said. "If a county wants to make a law in addition to the state law, they are free to do so."
Dave Stewart, co-owner of Indigo Eurasian Cuisine, Bar 35 and French bar Du Vin on Bethel Street, said customers usually step outside the door to smoke, whether it be in a back patio or the sidewalk.
With the new law, they won't be able to smoke within 20 feet of entryways, windows and ventilation intakes.
"That's to provide protection from smoke-blowing," Zysman said. "Certain people are very sensitive; if they have heart disease or asthma, even a little bit of exposure can be harmful."
Some businesses can apply for an exemption to the 20-foot rule, but only if they can prove the area set aside for smokers in no way infiltrates the public area or place of employment.
A partially enclosed space is defined as a roof or overhang and at least two walls, which don't necessarily go from floor to ceiling. Examples include public lobbies, interior courtyards, lanais, patios and covered walkways.
The new law would apply, for example, to outdoor seating areas for Starbucks or the Row Bar at Waterfront Plaza, even if it is an open-air bar.
"Row Bar will need to be smoke-free, along with any bar," Zysman said. "That includes any place -- tables and chairs -- that would be part of the restaurant or bar where they serve people."
The Hawaii Restaurant Association, a nonprofit representing restaurant owners, holds no official position on the smoking ban. Individual restaurant and bar owners, however, had plenty of opinions.
Bill Comerford, president of E&J Lounge Operating Co., which runs Kelley O'Neil's in Waikiki and O'Toole's Irish Pub downtown, estimated he would lose 60 percent of his regular customer base because of the smoking ban.
"During the day and early evening, people want to sit down and have a cigarette and a beer," said Comerford, who is a nonsmoker himself. "That's what they do. ... With this law, you prevent me from catering to my customers. That's a huge blow to business."
Another restaurant and bar owner who declined to be named said the new law seems like an imposition on the freedom of the individual.
In Waikiki, most restaurant/ bar owners try to accommodate as many customers as possible by allowing smokers to sit outdoors, while nonsmokers dine indoors. Many eastbound visitors expect to be able to smoke, given that they come from countries with less-stringent rules.
The Shack, a popular hangout with three locations in Mililani, Kailua and Hawaii Kai, has in the past had a regular customer base of heavy smokers.
But Chris Mattos, manager of the Shack in Hawaii Kai, said he's been trying to quit smoking himself after six years, and that it would be easier with the ban.
Mattos said many of the Shack's smokers are also trying to quit.
"Times are changing," he said. "I think it would actually be good for us to get rid of it. We might lose some customers, but will gain more than we lose. ... If the law says you can't smoke in public places, we're going to have to abide by it. That means ashtrays in the trash."